Mental health literacy intervention on help-seeking in athletes: A systematic review

Danran Bu, Pak Kwong Chung*, Chunqing Zhang, Jingdong Liu, Xiang Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Mental health literacy (MHL) is recognised as a major factor in whether athletes seek help when they experience mental health difficulties. Therefore, the current study aimed to provide a systematic review of the effectiveness of MHL training programmes in improving mental health knowledge and help-seeking and reducing stigma among athletes. To identify intervention studies of MHL programmes, five electronic databases were systematically searched for articles published before May 2020. The selection procedure was based on the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. All kinds of study designs were included. Effect sizes were calculated for mental health knowledge, stigma reduction and help-seeking attitudes, intentions and behaviours. Risk of bias was assessed for each study using the Cochrane tool and the Newcastle–Ottawa quality assessment scale. Five studies (1239 participants in total) were selected for review. Overall, either small or medium effects were found for mental health knowledge, stigma reduction, help-seeking attitudes, and intentions for post-and follow-up interventions, whereas a null effect was found in help-seeking behaviours for both post-and follow-up interventions. Furthermore, three studies had a low risk of bias, and two had a high risk of bias. MHL interventions can enhance help-seeking attitudes and intentions and mental health knowledge and reduce stigma but do not increase help-seeking behaviours for now. Further studies should evaluate interventions to enhance help-seeking behaviours. Furthermore, the methodological quality of studies, including randomized controlled trials and other designs, should be improved in future research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7263
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Athletes
  • Help-seeking
  • Mental health literacy
  • Systematic review


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